Fri., March 29. little berlin. littleberlin.org
Overall vibe: Marking the end of the bizarre, month-long art spectacle that was Plato’s Porno Cave: The New World, this nouveau circus/play was a beautiful train wreck from beginning to end. Whether hanging from the ceiling, lying on a bed of nails or juggling fire, the only thing more intense than watching people risk their physical well-being is having them do it mere inches from your face. No one was safe, but more importantly, no one was bored.
Most memorable moment: In a few months, the show’s many blunders, technical difficulties and close calls will likely be forgotten. But the image of a pregnant woman belly dancing? Well, that’s definitely going to stick in the minds of the audience for many years to come.
Scene stealer: While the entire cast may have given 100 percent, no one worked harder than writer, lead aerialist and one-woman freak show Mariana J. Plick. Perhaps her most impressive fete of the night: removing the flowers she stapled all over her face and body only to return minutes later to handle stagehand duties. (Nicole Finkbiner)
Wide Awake: A Civil War Cabaret
Through April 6, Innovation Studio at The Kimmel Center. pifa.org
Overall vibe: A wildly entertaining history lesson far more fun than it is informative. In one of PIFA’s most easily enticing productions, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret explores this defining period in American history with their usual brand of wit and artistry. They’ve also transformed the downstairs hallway in the Kimmel Center into a mini-museum, with such ridiculous displays as a retrospective of Civil War facial hair.
Most memorable moment: Given the pace of the production, it was really the small things that seemed to have the biggest impact: things like the surprise appearance of a dancing rat shadow puppet. As far as the music, the troupe’s rendition of The Beatles’ “Come Together” was certainly their finest.
Scene stealer: That would have to be John Jarboe, who stars as Dixie, the Southern belle from hell with a dress big enough to cover the Hoover Dam. (N.F.)
The Wilma Theater’s Under the Whaleback
Through April 27th, The Wilma Theater. wilmatheater.org
Overall vibe: White-knuckled seat-gripping panic hits as the lights fade to black. Our ears are flooded with sounds of the bursting sea, fog horns alone cut through swelling tempests shrouded in disorienting darkness before we're thrown onto the deck of the Kingston Jet, a distant sea sidewinder trawler docked in Hull, England in 1965, and the lights finally come up. The North American premiere of Richard Bean’s Under the Whaleback hurls you through 37 long years. Bring your Dramamine.
Most memorable moment: Act Two of this workplace tragedy is an exquisite anxiety attack that unravels in the claustrophobic crew quarters on board the James Joyce in 1972, captured most acutely by Keith J. Conallen as the short-fused Norman, trembling skinny-legged in long johns and a Ziggy Stardust t-shirt and gulping back panic. Desperate for a sip of cocoa, he clings to pieces of furniture as the floor of the ship is pulled out from under him. The precarious nature of a live performance is the ideal pressure cooker for Bean’s brand of survival-based humor that highlights the fragility of the fishermen employed in Great Britain's deadliest occupation.
Scene stealer: Or play-destroyer: the third act. Structurally, the flat, obligatory Act Three is the one abscess in this otherwise brilliant play. If it cannot be extracted entirely, than at least it should be boiled down to an epilogue delivered by Darrel (Pearce Bunting), as the museum curator, directly to the audience. (Jessica Foley)
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide